When I open my social media feeds, I get a clear sense that most people are weary, discouraged, confused, or fearful. These have been a heavy couple of years in many ways. 2016 even had it’s own saying. I’d heard the year spoken or written about in terms like, “It’s 2016 doing its thing” or “2016 being 2016.” I’ve started to see the same sentiment shared about 2017. In the public and social arena, these have been difficult years. And that’s true without even getting into the everyday struggles we’ve all likely faced. So, is there any point of trying to enjoy this life? Is there truly anything to be thankful for?
And yet, for one month out of the year most Americans are contemplating all that is good every single day. Ironically, you see it most vividly via social media as people post what they are most thankful for each day. It is November, the month of Thanksgiving. But what happens in December or even further down the road when the month of remembering to be thankful is but a distant memory? God’s Word doesn’t designate a month for thanksgiving, but a lifetime.
Paul, exhorting the Thessalonians says, “Rejoice always, pray without ceasing, give thanks in all circumstances; for this is the will of God in Christ Jesus for you” (1 Thess. 5: 16-18). Paul was a man who knew suffering. He isn’t exhorting them to be giddy and fake in all situations. Rather Paul is referring to a thanksgiving rooted in the understanding that God is good and sent His son to die for us and works all things together for the good of those who love Him (Rom. 8:28). One mark of the Christian is joy and thanksgiving (Eph. 5:4). This is a command for how we should live. So how does this look in my own life?
Because I have sin crouching at the door ready to take over at any moment, I have to fight to be thankful. I do not have to be experiencing difficult circumstances for this fight to arise. All I need to do is wake up. I awake, and immediately I have a choice to rejoice or complain. But by God’s grace, when the fog clears from my eyes, I am able to rejoice and be thankful daily. Thanksgiving, the act of being thankful, is a discipline. I must train my mind and eyes to see the Lord’s goodness and sweet grace daily. He is faithful to reveal Himself as I ask.
Although I believe that we are to be thankful for all of life, I am grateful for a month where thankfulness is on display every day. For me, the Thanksgiving holiday is a reminder that I am saved by the blood of Christ, He fully paid my ransom, I do not need to fear my final day, and one day I will be with my Savior rejoicing forevermore. Thanksgiving gives me an opportunity to get a glimpse of that rejoicing now.
My prayer for you and me is that—even when the world around us is in disarray—we would be refreshed in the Lord, that our God would be magnified in our eyes, and that we would learn the beauty of being sorrowful, yet always rejoicing.
Trillia Newbell is the author of Enjoy: Finding the Freedom to Delight Daily in God’s Good Gifts (2016), Fear and Faith: Finding the Peace Your Heart Craves (2015), United: Captured by God’s Vision for Diversity (2014) and a children’s book, God’s Very Good Idea: A True Story of God’s Delightfully Different Family (September, 2017). Her writings on issues of faith, family, and diversity have been published in the Knoxville News-Sentinel, Desiring God, Christianity Today, Relevant Magazine, The Gospel Coalition, and more. She is currently Director of Community Outreach for the Ethics and Religious Liberty Commission for the Southern Baptist Convention. Trillia is married to her best friend, Thern, they reside with their two children near Nashville, TN. You can find her at trillianewbell.com and follow her on twitter at @trillianewbell.